Spirograph has a long history as a toy – dating back to 1965. Its actually not the original – as the copy above says it was based off a drafting tool invented Denys Fisher. It probably looked something like this tool from 1968 (scanned from the Edmund Scientific 1968 catalog).
Even this was not the first ‘Spirograph’ as a version was produced for Sears & Roebuck in 1908 called the ‘Marvelous Wondergraph”.
Spirograph was a bit simpler, it was a combination of a ring or a rack with various teeth inside and outside of the ring (only on the outside of the rack). Several plastic wheels with teeth on the outside and multiple holes in the wheel were used to make the actual patterns. You would stick a pen or pencil through one of the holes in the wheel and roll the wheel inside or outside of the ring or rack. This action would make a pattern on the page. A little clever switching of colored pens would make the patterns much more attractive.
There was one major drawback with Spirograph: The pins. A small child’s hands, or even most adults for the matter, could not be expected to hold the ring or rack in place. This meant they had to be pinned into place. That meant that Spirograph had to be done on a piece of cardboard thick enough to accept the pins or a piece of softwood. This meant some preparation that most kids were not prepared to do. In addition, some parents were concerned about the small parts, the sharp pins. Spirograph had a good run as a toy but faded a bit when the first computer games came around in the late 70’s. In the 80’s the Spirograph was still being produced, as this ad shows:
Kenner, the producer of Spirograph, last produced a kit in 1986. In the late 80’s Kenner was probably more concerned with selling popular action figures. They went through several corporate changes, first being spun out from their parent company, was purchased by Tonka, and then being bought out by Hasbro, who showed minor interest in the product producing versions that weren’t quite what people though of as Spirograph:
Officially, Spirograph never went away, it just wasn’t produced much. Several other companies produced smaller versions, but these were simplified versions like the Hasbro Spirograph and just not quite the same thing. The decline of the classic Spirgraph system was even used as a joke on the Simpsons:
Recently, however, thanks to Koontz Toys, Spirograph has returned in a form very similar to its classic design. We are presently carrying the ‘Design Set’,which is a small travel size version. It comes with a ring, a rack, and six wheels, two pens, and a nice carry case.
Although very much set up like the original Spirograph, there are some crucial differences – may improvements. First of all the pins are gone. Instead the kit includes a bit of stick putty which is used to hold the rings to the paper:
Mind you, if you prefer the pin method, you can see that the ring has holes to accommodate the pins. Pins are not included, so you will have to get your own.
In addition to the sticky-tack, two color pens are included. These pens are specially designed for the Spirograph as one of the issues with the classic sets is that not all pens would fit through the holes on wheels.
You can, of course, use your own pens if they fit through the holes.
The Spirograph Design Set sells for $18.99 and will give hours of fun for kids. Any future artist, engineer or mathematician should have experience with a classically designed Spirograph. After all they are attractive, and there is actually quite a lot of Math to learn from them!
Want to buy the Original Spirograph Design Set?